Saturday, September 05, 2009

Do we still respect our teachers?

The last few weeks had a sad series of events, which went unnoticed in the mayhem of the swine flu scare, the euphoria of the Ganesh Utsav. Faculty from all the IITs resorted to an unprecedented action which, till now, has been attributed only to unionised employees and many government employees only. In order to get a fair deal in terms of pay and career benefits from the Sixth Pay Commission, they first went on a mass casual leave. This was a huge event in itself. Never in the history of IITs have classes been cancelled except under extreme emergencies, like the swine flu scare. In IIT Bombay, classes were running even in the immediate aftermath of 26th July 2005. Such has been the dedication of faculty towards maintaining the teaching schedule.

Considering the wealth of knowledge and understanding of a subject that a IIT faculty has, he/she can get a corporate job easily, which would pay much more than IIT does. But, they have taken it onto themselves to work for the advancement of their field and develop the next generation of engineers, researchers and scientists. They are not those people who couldn't get any other job and hence took the IIT job. While they are not demanding astronomical salaries, like IIM-A faculty, they should be treated with dignity. The Sixth Pay Commission has inflicted huge blows to their career path in terms of growth and monetary compensation, as well as robbed them of their status of "national importance". More details of how the Pay Commission has degraded the IIT faculty's position can be found here.

The Ministry of HRD is on a path that would lead to sequential erosion of quality of faculty at IIT. Suddenly, out of the blue, they have accepted a report which states that Assistant Professors should have a work experience of atleast 3 years, which does not include the experience gained during their Ph.D. Now, how many would want to join IIT after 3 years of working elsewhere? If that was not enough, IITs have been asked to hire people with Masters' degree at Lecturer positions. IITs have long ago scrapped the Lecturer position and have hired only Ph.D. holders directly at Assistant Professor level. Instead of raising the bar to improve quality, why is the government hell bent on lowering it? In a knee-jerk reaction, it has already ordered to increase the number of students (through reservations), without caring to improve the infrastructure in the IITs. Even the basic facilities like hostel and messes are already overloaded due to lack of construction of new ones.

The government's continuous negligence of this matter forced the IIT staff to go on a one-day fast, that too on Teacher's Day! What appalled me is that this is the same government and Parliament which passed an enormous increase in the salaries and facilities of its MPs in a jiffy. But is reluctant to give the IIT professors their due. The previous Speaker Mr. Somnath Chatterejee had correctly mentioned that it is not correct for MPs to appraise themselves about their salaries. Is this the way we treat our teachers? And that too, in the country's advanced and coveted places of learning and development. IITs have been one of the most impartial institutes when it comes to admitting and grading students. That is the reason for their ability to produce technology greats who have proved their talent not only in India, but around the world too! If this is the way IIT teachers are treated, I shudder to think of the treatment meted out to primary and secondary school teachers.

People ask what have the IITs done for the nation, so that the government should extend and continue its largesse towards them. Well, there can be counter questions to this. What has the DRDO done till date, that the government should continue supporting it? For the past 25 years, they couldn't build an effective tank. Time and again, their tank has been rejected by the army. None of DRDO's projects have been completed without a huge time and cost overrun. So, is the case with the GTRE. They haven't been able to develop the engine for the LCA since the inception of the LCA project. Same with BARC and AERB. Where are those fast breeder reactors that use thorium and could free India from dependence on foreign technology? Nobody asks the effectiveness of these organisations. But still, the government has increased the grade of scientists in these organisations as compared to IIT professors. The only successful organisation that comes to my mind is the ISRO, which has fulfilled India's programme of space technology.

When will this country give the teachers their due? They are the true builders of society. When our parents are at their work place or mothers take care of our homes, these teachers are the ones who develop and blend our personalities. They are the ones who can ignite our interests in various subjects. They have the greatest impact on the development of our thought process. A teacher with highest regard for ethics and greatest interest in teaching is an asset which needs to be nurtured with care, so that he/she can positively influence the lives of generations to come. Why did the situation come to such a level where IIT teachers had to protest? Even before that, there were protests by college teachers in Maharashtra, demanding implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission for them too. Why can't they get their dues, without having to resort to such protests?

We always recite the prayer
गुरु: ब्रम्हा, गुरुर्विष्णु, गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः|
गुरुः साक्षात परब्रम्ह: तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः ||
But, do we realise the disservice we are doing to these teachers, who will be shaping the future of this country? How many times, do we look back to our school or college days and say, "Yes, it was because of these teachers, that I am what I am!" And when we realise this, will we force the government not to rob the teachers of their dignity.
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  1. Now engineering institutes lack quality teachers because MNCs pay even more than what the President of India gets per month. HRD ministry should take immediate action specially for IIT teachers, otherwise the situation may be blown out of proportion !!!

  2. Hmmm. Another nice take on the present scenario. Even IITM had the teachers going on strike. Leave the IITs look at the Arts and Science Colleges -- they are moving from bad to worse in terms of paying teachers.

  3. @the adamant soul,
    do not look at payment by MNCs and comapare it directly. There are other factors too, that influence a salary. Of course, government jobs cannot give as much as private ones, but definitely they come with other benefits that cannot be measured by money.

    That's why I said, I shudder to think about the treatment meted out to primary and secondary school teachers. I mean, if IIT faculty receive such shabby treatment, the others will definitely be treated more badly! I agree with you on that part about Arts and Science teachers